5 Things - Week Ending 11/29/13

This is the 54th post in a series called 5 Things. Each week I will share a combination of technology articles and apps that I have discovered and liked in the past week. Anything highlighted in blue is a link to an article, an app, or another section of my website.

FAA to Allow Airlines to Expand Use of Personal Electronics

Passengers will eventually be able to read e-books, play games, and watch videos on their devices during all phases of flight, with very limited exceptions. Electronic items, books and magazines, must be held or put in the seat back pocket during the actual takeoff and landing roll. Cell phones should be in airplane mode or with cellular service disabled – i.e., no signal bars displayed—and cannot be used for voice communications based on FCC regulations that prohibit any airborne calls using cell phones. If your air carrier provides Wi-Fi service during flight, you may use those services. You can also continue to use short-range Bluetooth accessories, like wireless keyboards.

This is great news! I never understood why I couldn't read article on my Kindle or play games on my iPad during takeoff or landing. It looks like the Federal Aviation Administration has relaxed the rules.

Amazon Raises Threshold for Free Shipping

David Streitfeld:

Amazon.com tightened the requirements for one of its most popular shipping methods Tuesday morning.

The change is to Super Saver Shipping, which for a over a decade mailed items free as long as the order met a $25 threshold.

The new threshold: $35. Amazon gave no reason for the change.

I think this move by Amazon is designed to encourage people to sign up for Amazon Prime (membership that cost $79 per year and offers unlimited free 2-day shipping on most items).

This makes good business sense because people will either purchase more items to make sure they get free shipping or pay for Amazon Prime. Most people don't like the idea of paying for shipping and would rather buy an extra $10 item to avoid a $4 shipping fee.

Kindle First Lets you Read E-Books a Month before Official Release

Nick Summers:

Editors at Amazon Publishing will choose four upcoming titles and highlight them for the Kindle First scheme. Readers can then pick one of these e-books to read each month on their Kindle or Kindle reading app for $1.99.

As an added incentive for its premium Amazon Prime membership, it’s also offering the scheme as a free bonus for new and existing subscribers.

I think this is a really neat program that Amazon just launched. If you are intrigued by one of the four books that Amazon editors pick out for early e-book release, you pay $1.99 (where in the real world could you purchase a brand new book for $1.99?). If you are an Amazon Prime member you get to pick one of the four books for free.

This month's selection is between the following four books:

  • Soy Sauce for Beginners
  • The Widow File
  • Timebound
  • Sweet Nothings (A Sugar Springs Novel)

I am debating if I want to get The Widow File or Timebound.

To learn more about Kindle First and to sign up for the monthly email to be notified of which books you can choose from, click on the link earlier in this paragraph.

I challenged hackers to investigate me and what they found out is chilling

Adam L. Penenberg:

With so much of my life reduced to microscopic bits and bytes bouncing around in a netherworld of digital data, how much could Nick Percoco and a determined team of hackers find out about me? Worse, how much damage could they potentially cause?

What I learned is that virtually all of us are vulnerable to electronic eavesdropping and are easy hack targets. Most of us have adopted the credo “security by obscurity,” but all it takes is a person or persons with enough patience and know-how to pierce anyone’s privacy — and, if they choose, to wreak havoc on your finances and destroy your reputation.

Fascinating article that shows how vulnerable most of us are when it comes to online security.

Speed and Power Packed Into a Thin iPad Air - Walt Mossberg - Personal Technology

Walt Mossberg:

Bottom line: If you can afford it, the new iPad Air is the tablet I recommend, hands down.

Agreed. I bought the iPad Air the day it came out and it is lighter, thinner, and much faster than the iPad 4 that came before it. If you like the iPad, you will love the iPad Air!

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Ask The Nice Guy - Dropbox, E-Readers, and Downloading Free Music

This is the 7th post in a series called Ask The Nice Guy. In this series I will attempt to provide answers to the various questions I get asked throughout the week.

What’s inside? Here are the questions answered in this blog post, boiled down to five word (or less) summaries.

  1. Benefits of Dropbox
  2. Best E-Reader
  3. Downloading Free Music

Question 1: Benefits of Dropbox?

My family is asking me what are the benefit of using Dropbox?

Dropbox is a free service that lets you bring all your photos, docs, and videos anywhere. This means that any file you save to your Dropbox will automatically save to all your computers, phones and even the Dropbox website.

You can learn more about Dropbox by taking this tour on their website.

I make extensive use of Dropbox in my life life. I have all my important files saved in Dropbox which makes them accessible on any device. Having the important files saved in Dropbox gives me some peace of mind knowing that if something happened to my computer I would still be able to access those files by visiting Dropbox.com.

The real magic with Dropbox in its ability to sync your files across devices. I can make a change to a text document on my MacBook Air and have the file synced to my other devices within seconds.

Question 2: Best Gadget For Reading Books?

I am pondering which gadget would be a good book reader for me. I read mostly non-fiction books, usually from the public library (my impression is that the library doesn’t have a big selection of books for e-reading). Anyway, I read in bright light outdoors and when it’s darker inside. Not knowing any pros, cons, or specs, I am leaning towards the iPad mini as I have an iPhone and MacBook Pro and am a big Apple fan. I assume the iPad mini has much more app capability than the Kindle or Nook?

Based on the fact that you identified yourself as someone who reads in bright light outdoors and when it is darker inside, I would have to recommend the Kindle Paperwhite. It is a dedicated e-reader that you can easily read in the bright sun (I have read numerous books on my Kindle while lying out in the sun on top of a cruise ship) and read in a dark room with the built in light.

The iPad mini has much more app capability than the Kindle Paperwhite but it will not offer a good reading experience in the bright sun. I was out for a walk today and tried to check the temperature on my iPhone and I could not see the screen at all due to all of the glare! On the cruise my wife and I went on, she left her iPad mini at home and just brought her Kindle.

The cost of the Kindle Paperwhite is much lower than the least expensive iPad mini which gives you additional money to buy books!

The public library does have a selection of books to check out, but it is not comprehensive. Many titles are not available and the ones that are available often have a wait list to check them out. There are plenty of free books available on the Kindle Store that are worth checking out. I have found that the price of an e-book is considerably less than a traditional book and the amount of enjoyment gained from a good book is well worth the cost.

Question 3: Using Limewire or Frostwire?

My high school son was telling me the other day that I could download music for free from a program called Frostwire. Is this safe?

I wouldn't recommend it. Frostwire and Limewire are file sharing programs that allow people to "share" music via the internet with other people. There are numerous reasons why this is a bad idea.

The first reason that it is a bad idea is because you aren't quite sure what you are actually downloading. Just because it says that it is the latest single from Bruno Mars does not mean it is even a song. It could be a virus, spyware, or malware. If it is legitimately a song it may not be a very high quality version.

The second reason that it is a bad idea is because if you are caught downloading music, movies, or television shows from a file sharing program, you could be fined or sent to prison.

According to Lisa Vaas:

The first jury trial for a file-sharing suit brought by the major record labels has resulted in a $222,000 fine for a Minnesota woman accused of downloading and distributing more than 1,700 songs on the file-sharing site KaZaA.

I don't know about you, but I don't have that kind of cash burning a hole in my pocket to pay a hefty fine for illegally downloading music.

The third reason that it is a bad idea is because the people that make the media that we all enjoy deserve to get paid for their work. If you don't want to pay money for a song, there are numerous ways to listen to it for free that are legal. You can use:

If you appreciate the free content on NiceGuyTechnology.com please support Mike by shopping on Amazon. If you click on the link and buy something, Mike will receive a small percentage of your purchase and it won't cost you any extra! Thanks for your consideration!

5 Things - Week Ending 1/18/13

This is the 35th post in a series called 5 Things. Each week I will share a combination of technology articles and apps that I have discovered and liked in the past week. Anything highlighted in blue is a link to an article, an app, or another section of my website.

Java is a very tempting target for malware developers, as it is available to all major OSes. This will mean a brisk trade in the cybercrime underground for zero-days for a long time to come. While the recent patch that was quickly released by Oracle puts out the raging zero-day fire, there are plenty more smouldering issues that are ready to erupt in flames at any moment. It is helpful that Oracle has increased Java’s default security level, requiring users to acknowledge and click Java content before it will run, but they allow signed content to run unimpeded. Signing applications has never been a significant hurdle to malware developers. This may delay the next major zero-day problem, but not for long.

I advised people a couple weeks ago to get rid of Java due to various security concerns. Check out my blog post title, PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT - JAVA to learn more.

From Click to Delivery: Inside Amazon's Cyber Monday Strategy

Neal Karlinsky and Brandon Baur:

Amazon has 80 giant fulfillment centers strategically sprinkled around the globe that are ready to fulfill every order from click to delivery. The process follows miles of conveyer belts inside a massive 1.2 million-square-foot warehouse that is like the unseen shopping mall that never closes.

If you click on the link above to read this article you will be able to watch a fascinating video about the inner workings of an Amazon warehouse. It is quite amazing!

Bexar set to turn the page on idea of books in libraries

John W. Gonzalez:

Today, after months of planning, Wolff and other county leaders will announce plans to launch the nation’s first bookless public library system, BiblioTech, with a prototype location on the South Side opening in the fall.

For the past couple years I have thought that libraries will have to adapt to the digital revolution that is taking place. In 20 years will libraries still be purchasing physical books? Will counties and cities close library buildings down due to budget cuts? Will they instead just offer digital books online?

I don't know the answers to these questions, but it does appear that a county in Texas is at least exploring the possibility of a library without physical books. I expect other counties to be watching closely.

Woman Drives for 900 Miles Instead of 90 Thanks to GPS Error

Jesus Diaz:

The woman, 67-year-old Sabine Moreau, started her journey in her home town of Hainault Erquelinnes, Belgium. She wanted to pick up a friend at a train station in Brussels, just 93 miles north from her point of origin. But instead, she turned on her GPS, which told her to drive south, taking her turn by turn all the way down to Zagreb, in Croatia. Instead of a couple hours in the car, she spent a couple days to cover the 900 miles that separates both points in Europe.

In Belgium, like America, common sense is not so common! If your GPS tells you to drive somewhere that doesn't seem to make sense you might want to pull over to the side of the road and look at things a bit closer.

I can't believe this woman traveled for 900 miles! That is ridiculous!

T-Mobile’s CEO is doing something crazy: He’s trying to not rip us off

Jeffrey Van Camp:

To do that, T-Mobile is turning its back on a number of the money-grubbing practices that have, sadly, become standard in the wireless industry. They will no longer require two-year contracts, people can bring devices from any carrier, and he’s going to end hidden charges. Instead of secretly building the cost of phones into a two-year contract, T-Mobile will sell phones for their full (expensive) prices. He unveiled a $70-a-month unlimited talk, text, and data plan with no throttling – a price and option we haven’t seen for years – promised the iPhone, and said that this is just the beginning. You know what? I believe him.

The new CEO at T-Mobile seems like he is ready to shake things up. It will interesting to see how consumers respond to these changes. It also sounds like the iPhone will be offered on T-Mobile's network for the first time in 2013.

5 Things - Week Ending 1/4/13

This is the 33rd post in a series called 5 Things. Each week I will share a combination of technology articles and apps that I have discovered and liked in the past week. Anything highlighted in blue is a link to an article, an app, or another section of my website.

Barnes & Noble is the last national chain of book stores in America. And its eBook strategy simply isn’t working. This was the Christmas when the earlier collapse of the Borders chain should have boosted Barnes & Noble’s fortunes. Instead, Nook volumes declined and retail segment revenue crashed by 10.9% compared to the previous Christmas. Now, both brick and mortar as well as digital sales are spiraling down.

I have the feeling that Barnes & Noble is going to have a very difficult time competing with Amazon. Barnes & Noble is seeing both traditional & digital book sales declining. It is extremely hard to compete with a company like Amazon that is willing to earn razor thin margins when you operate close to 700 retail locations that have major overhead costs asssociated with them.

Will Barnes & Noble go the way of Borders? At this point, I am going to have a hard time recommending a Nook product to my clients due to uncertainity about the long term viability of Barnes & Noble.

U.S. Internet Users Pay More for Slower Service

Susan Crawford:

Internet access, like electricity, is crucial to the economic and social health of the country. Electricity, however, is provided by largely reliable, taxpayer-supported entities, and no one seems to think the country would be better off if a purely private, wholly deregulated operator were in charge. Such a company might decide to provide service only in New York, Washington and other big cities, at very high rates for those who could afford it, and refuse to serve small towns and less- successful areas.
The Internet has taken the place of the telephone as the world’s basic, general-purpose, two-way communication medium. All Americans need high-speed access, just as they need clean water, clean air and electricity. But they have allowed a naive belief in the power and beneficence of the free market to cloud their vision. As things stand, the U.S. has the worst of both worlds: no competition and no regulation.

This is a MUST READ article. In my opinion, this is an issue that the federal government must address. I can't tell you how many of my clients have expressed their frustration about the high costs and lack of options they have when it comes to internet access.

If you read this article you will discover that other countries are way ahead of us when it comes to availabity of fast and affordable internet access. This will have negative effects on our ability to compete in a global economy.

Gregory’s iPhone Contract

Janell Burley Hoffman:

Merry Christmas! You are now the proud owner of an iPhone. Hot Damn! You are a good & responsible 13 year old boy and you deserve this gift. But with the acceptance of this present comes rules and regulations. Please read through the following contract. I hope that you understand it is my job to raise you into a well rounded, healthy young man that can function in the world and coexist with technology, not be ruled by it. Failure to comply with the following list will result in termination of your iPhone ownership.

I applaud this mom for laying down some ground rules for her teenage son. I think it is very important to be an active parent and teach your kid healthy boundaries when it comes to technology.

Make sure to click the article link above to read the 18 rules that Janell laid out for her son.

How Hackable Is Your Bank Account? Call Customer Service to Find Out

Melanie Pinola:

I was recently stupefied to find out it’s extremely easy to get into my (former) bank accounts. All you needed to do was call up customer service and verify very basic information. One bank even reset my security questions when I said I didn’t remember them. This is unacceptable; here’s how to make sure it doesn’t happen to you.

I teach a class called Staying Safe In A Digital World and I discuss the importance of having an unique strong password for your bank accounts. The best password in the world won't do much good if your bank does not practice proper security measures.

My primary bank ING Direct will ask various security questions over the phone and if you don't know the answers they will snail mail you something to reset your password which should prevent someone from breaking into your account.

The Answer is Just a Click Away

David Pell:

One by one, each person described an obstacle. I need to manage my team more effectively. I need to make more efficient use of my time. I need to spend more time connecting with my kids before they’re too old to need me. While the themes were varied, the obstacles really weren’t. In each case, the key obstacle being described was resting on the table, for a rare moment, just beyond arm’s reach.

Everyone was basically complaining about technology.

David Pell makes a compelling case in this blog post that the answer to a balanced life is simply turning off our technology.

I took eight days off in December in which I barely used any technology. It was awesome! I took a six mile walk yesterday where I didn't use my iPhone to text, tweet, or email. It was great!

I like to use Do Not Disturb on my iPhone between 10pm and 7am to limit interruptions at the end and beginning of my day.

I would encourage you to turn your phone on silent, ignore your email for a day, or take a vacation that is technology free and find some balance in your life.